These days, the team from the Queen City is in rebuilding mode. But what four players are the Cincinnati Bengals’ greatest all-time performers?
Born in 1968 in the American Football League under original head coach Paul Brown, it’s a franchise that has had some very down moments. But there have also been plenty of positives when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals.
There have been some phenomenal players and stars. The club has made two Super Bowl appearances but has yet to hoist a Lombardi Trophy. Last month, the team used the first overall pick in the draft to select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow as the team looks to get back on track after a 2-14 campaign.
In terms of a few of the bigger names to play for the club that are not mentioned throughout below, there’s quarterback Boomer Esiason, wide receivers Isaac Curtis and Eddie Brown, tight end Bob Trumpy, running backs Corey Dillon, Pete Johnson and James Brooks, defensive tackle Mike Reid, linebackers Bill Bergey and Jim LeClair, cornerback Lamar Parrish, safety David Fulcher and current standouts on the defensive line in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
So here’s a look at what this franchise’s four figureheads (in alphabetical order) may look like carved in stone.
QB Ken Anderson
The Bengals have had their share of standout quarterbacks over the years.
The franchise recently parted ways with nine-year veteran Andy Dalton, who helped lead the team to five straight playoff appearances. He played in four postseason games under head coach Marvin Lewis and is the club’s all-time leader in TD passes (204). The former Texas Tech standout is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
There was 2003 first overall pick Carson Palmer, a two-time Pro Bowler with Cincinnati who also led the team to the playoffs in 2005 and ’09. Boomer Esiason was a second-round draft choice in 1984 and four years later had the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
But most of all, there was quarterback Ken Anderson. A third-round selection from Augustana in 1971, the 16-year pro still holds the Bengals’ record for career passing yardage (32,838), throwing for 197 scores (160 interceptions) while earning four Pro Bowl invitations and one All-Pro nod. He was the NFL’s MVP in 1981, a year in which he took the franchise to Super Bowl XVI.
Anderson is a name often discussed when it comes to Pro Football Hall of Fame omissions. He certainly has the credentials and perhaps his time will come one day soon.
WR Chad Johnson
The Cincinnati Bengals have had their share of outstanding wide receivers. Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner played for the franchise for three-plus seasons before going onto bigger things with the Chargers. In 1985, the Bangles used the 13th overall picked on University of Miami wideout Eddie Brown, who captured NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors but did see his career hampered by injuries.
In 2011, the club took University of Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with the fourth overall selection. While injuries have curtailed its production in recent years (he missed all of 2019), he’s already totaled 602 catches for 8,907 and 63 scores in eight seasons and has been named to the Pro Bowl seven times.
Of course, there’s also flamboyant Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, who teamed with T.J. Houshmandzadeh for years to form one of the league’s most potent duos. The 2001 second-round pick from Oregon State and six-time Pro Bowler spent 10 seasons in the Queen City and is the franchise’s all-time leader in catches (751), receiving yards (10,783) and memorable end zone celebrations.
Johnson’s consistency was notable, totaling 80-plus receptions five times and 1,000-plus receiving yards in seven of his 10 seasons with the organization.
T Anthony Munoz
It is one thing to be mentioned as one of the best players ever at your position. It’s also another to be mentioned as arguably the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history. That certainly applies to Cincinnati Bengals tackle Anthony Munoz.
The third-overall pick in the 1980 NFL draft played 13 seasons in the Queen City before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in ’93. But he never suited up for the club as injuries forced him into retirement.
The resume is stunning. An 11-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All-Pro, the former Trojan is also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s, the league’s 75th Anniversary Team (1994) and was recently named to the NFL 100 All-Time Team (via NFL Network).
Munoz was part of Cincinnati’s two Super Bowl clubs in 1981 and 1988, both resulting in narrow losses to the San Francisco 49ers. And of course, the 6-foot-6, 278-pound blocking machine was a First-Ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame selection in 1998.
The versatile performer could also be found in the end zone on occasions with the football. The 13-year pro would catch seven passes for 18 yards and four touchdowns as a tackle eligible. He ranks among the greatest players in league annals regardless of the position.
CB Ken Riley
When it comes to the regular season, there are only 11 players in NFL history who have picked off at least 60 passes. And it’s a pretty impressive list, led by Hall of Famers Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71) and Dick “Night Train” Lane (68). And those are the only four performers in league annals with more interceptions than Cincinnati Bengals’ cornerback Ken Riley.
The 15-year veteran stole a total of 65 passes during his days with the franchise, tied with Charles Woodson for the fifth-highest total in the history of the National Football League. A sixth-round selection by the franchise in 1969 from Florida A&M, he played in 207 regular-season contests for the Bengals and made 201 starts.
Riley picked off at least three passes in 12 of his 15 seasons and would return 65 of his thefts for touchdowns. He also finished with 18 opponent fumble recoveries, giving Riley an impressive 83 takeaways during his days on the field.
Somewhat inexplicably, the opportunistic performer was never named to a Pro Bowl and finally earned All-Pro honors in his final season in the league in 1983 when he totaled eight interceptions, returning two for scores.